Home > News > News in Brief: 5 September 2007

News in Brief: 5 September 2007

A brief list of news for the day:

Leaked Report: Afghan Conflict Jeopardizes Canada’s Defense. The Afghanistan war is compromising Canada’s homeland security by diverting military resources and averting generals’ focus abroad, according to a report leaked to the Ottawa Citizen. The 62-page report prepared for Chief of the Defense Staff General Rick Hillier details the progress of an ambitious plan to streamline the Canadian Forces with the establishment of four new commands. It notes that about the same time as the transformation process was launched 18 months ago, the Afghanistan war began heating up again and has since dominated Canadian military and foreign affairs policies. (Defense News/AFP)

Report: Surge hasn’t cut attacks on Iraqi civilians. The surge of additional U.S. troops in Iraq has failed to curtail violence against Iraqi civilians, an independent government agency reported Tuesday. Citing data from the Pentagon and other U.S. agencies, the Government Accountability Office found that daily attacks against civilians in Iraq have remained “about the same” since February, when the United States began sending nearly 30,000 additional troops to improve security in Iraq. (McClatchy)

US commander hints at Iraq troop reduction in 2008. The US military commander in Iraq, General David Petraeus, hinted he may recommend a reduction of US troops there by March next year, in an interview released Tuesday. “There are limits to what our military can provide, so, my recommendations have to be informed by — not driven by — but they have to be informed by the strain we have put on our military services,” Petraeus said in the interview with ABC television in Baghdad. (AFP)

Bush Shifts Terms for Measuring Progress in Iraq. With the Democratic-led Congress poised to measure progress in Iraq by focusing on the central government’s failure to perform, President Bush is proposing a new gauge, by focusing on new American alliances with the tribes and local groups that Washington once feared would tear the country apart. That shift in emphasis was implicit in Mr. Bush’s decision to bypass Baghdad on his eight-hour trip to Iraq, stopping instead in Anbar Province, once the heart of an anti-American Sunni insurgency. By meeting with tribal leaders who just a year ago were considered the enemy, and who now are fighting Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, a president who has unveiled four or five strategies for winning over Iraqis — depending on how one counts — may now be on the cusp of yet another. (New York Times)

One-Fifth of Local Livestock Risks Extinction. Wild and exotic animals aren’t the only creatures facing imminent extinction. Many breeds of indigenous livestock in Africa, Asia and Latin America are now at a risk of entirely disappearing. A study released Monday called “The State of the World’s Animal Genetic Resources”, conducted by the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), found that an over-reliance on some breeds of livestock imported from the United States and Europe, including the high-milk-yielding Holstein-Friesian cows, egg-laying White Leghorn chickens, and fast-growing large white pigs, is causing the loss of at least one indigenous livestock breed a month. (IPS)

A bolder Hu Tests Power at China Communist Congress. When President Hu Jintao opens the 17th Chinese Communist Party congress on October 15, he will be seeking to oust key rivals, name a successor and finally emerge from the shadow of his once powerful predecessor, Jiang Zemin. A stronger grip on power could allow Hu to speed up his drive to balance breakneck but uneven economic growth, improve the lives of poor farmers, build a social safety net, halt rampant environmental degradation and promote “fair and just” policies. (Reuters)

Western Australia reaps huge profits from Chinese boom. Here in the capital of vast, mineral-rich Western Australia, a wave of prosperity unleashed by Chinese hunger for its metals and energy have sent property prices soaring so high that affordable homes became scarce. (International Herald Tribune)

Hamas bans Gaza outdoor prayers. Hamas has banned outdoor prayer gatherings in the Gaza Strip, just days after supporters of the rival Fatah group used them to mount mass protests. About 20 people were injured on Friday when Hamas security forces broke up the biggest show of opposition to the group since it took control of Gaza in June. (BBC)

No proof Iran running 3,000 centrifuges: diplomats. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s statement that Iran has 3,000 centrifuges running is not backed up by evidence, diplomats familiar with U.N. inspections said. Ahmadinejad said on Sunday that Iran had 3,000 working centrifuges. With 3,000 centrifuges running smoothly in unison at supersonic speed for long periods, Iran could refine enough uranium for an atom bomb in about a year, nuclear experts say. (Reuters)

South Africa: Jo’burg Investigates Service Riots. Angry rioting against the lack of service delivery in Soweto and other areas led to the City of Johannesburg sending a fact-finding team to the townships yesterday after the protests turned violent. Increased public frustration with poor service delivery has resulted in a spate of violent protests across the country. Scores of people have been arrested for public violence. Anti-Privatisation Forum organiser Silumko Radebe said yesterday that police clashed with a number of protesters in the Vaal and in Soweto yesterday. (allAfrica)

Ethiopia: Government Denies ‘Blocking’ NGO. The Ethiopian government has denied claims by Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) that the medical NGO was being prevented from working in the troubled Somali region. MSF claimed in a statement that it was prevented from responding to escalating health and nutritional needs and the region faced a “humanitarian crisis”. (allAfrica)

Aid agency warns of possible starvation in eastern Ethiopia. A leading relief agency said Tuesday that Ethiopian government forces had blocked relief efforts and food supplies in parts of the rebel Ogaden region, adding the threat of starvation to a rapidly growing humanitarian crisis. Doctors Without Borders said that Ethiopian forces — which are trying to crush a long-running separatist movement in the eastern region — repeatedly had denied its teams access to two of the worst-affected areas in recent weeks, citing security operations. (McClatchy)

Ice-free Arctic could be here in 23 years. The Arctic ice cap has collapsed at an unprecedented rate this summer and levels of sea ice in the region now stand at a record low, scientists said last night. Experts said they were “stunned” by the loss of ice, with an area almost twice as big as Britain disappearing in the last week alone. So much ice has melted this summer that the north-west passage across the top of Canada is fully navigable, and observers say the north-east passage along Russia’s Arctic coast could open later this month. If the increased rate of melting continues, the summertime Arctic could be totally free of ice by 2030. Mark Serreze, an Arctic specialist at the US National Snow and Ice Data Centre at Colorado University in Denver which released the figures, said: “It’s amazing. It’s simply fallen off a cliff and we’re still losing ice.” The Arctic has now lost about a third of its ice since satellite measurements began 30 years ago, and the rate of loss has accelerated sharply since 2002. (Guardian)

Nuclear Warheads Mistakenly Flown on B-52. A U.S. Air Force B-52 bomber mistakenly loaded with five nuclear warheads flew from Minot Air Force Base, N.D, to Barksdale Air Force Base, La., on Aug. 30, resulting in an Air Force-wide investigation, according to three officers who asked not to be identified because they were not authorized to discuss the incident. The B-52 was loaded with Advanced Cruise Missiles, part of a Defense Department effort to decommission 400 of the ACMs. But the nuclear warheads should have been removed at Minot before being transported to Barksdale, the officers said. The missiles were mounted onto the pylons of the bomber’s wings. (Defense News)

US gives Australia top military technology. The United States is giving Australia more access to top-secret American military technology under a new defence cooperation treaty they signed on Wednesday. “The treaty will reduce barriers to the exchange of defence goods, services, and information between Australia and the United States, increasing interoperability and providing our forces with the most effective means to counter new threats,” the White House said. Both countries are negotiating the A$16 billion ($13 billion) sale of advanced F-35 Joint Strike Fighters, while the US recently agreed to Australia buying 24 FA-18F Super Hornet fighters for A$6.6 billion. Australia is also buying US-built cruise missiles and airborne early warning aircraft for its air force and sophisticated radars for a new fleet of destroyers. Khaleej Times/Reuters)

Australia ‘still committed to Iraq’. Australia remains committed to maintaining its military presence in Iraq, the country’s prime minister has said. “Our commitment to Iraq remains,” said Howard, speaking alongside George Bush. Bush arrived in Sydney late on Tuesday ahead of summit of the 21 nation Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation (Apec) forum this week. (Al Jazeera)

Rebel Congo general warns of ‘war’. A renegade Congolese general has said his forces are now in a state of war with government troops after sporadic fighting forced tens of thousands to flee the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. (Al Jazeera)

Death Squads Still Operating. Recent arrests of police officers in El Salvador accused of committing extrajudicial executions have encouraged human rights activists and experts who have long reported the continued existence of death squads in this Central American country. For years, human rights organisations and experts have said the death squads that operated during the counterinsurgency war in the 1980s never disappeared, but merely became groups of paid killers that still operate with impunity, and are hired to “settle scores, carry out vengeance killings, eliminate a businessman’s competitor, carry out ‘social cleansing’ or work for organised crime.” (IPS)

China flexes muscles of its ‘informationised’ army. When the presidents of the world’s remaining superpower and the nation fast challenging for the title, George Bush of the United States and Hu Jintao of China, meet in Sydney tomorrow they had been scheduled to be talking about matters of mutual interest: trade and global warming. Now, even if not on the formal agenda, both sides are likely to be considering the prickly issue of cyber warfare, following the revelation that the Pentagon suffered a major breach by hackers reportedly working for the Chinese military earlier this year. Disclosure by the Financial Times that the People’s Liberation Army, or PLA, assaulted part of the Pentagon’s system used by policy advisers to the defence secretary, Robert Gates, is the latest and potentially most serious breach and set alarm bells ringing across the US military. (Guardian)

Final count in close Jamaica vote. A final count of ballots is under way in Jamaica, where the ruling People’s National Party (PNP) is refusing to concede a razor-thin defeat. Preliminary results gave the opposition Labour Party (JLP) victory, with 31 out of the 60 seats in parliament. (BBC)

Lebanon: Defence Minister Murr warns fresh political crisis could mar army’s victory. Defense Minister Elias Murr adamantly warned the Lebanese on Tuesday against the formation of two governments and failure to elect a president for the country, as he hailed the Lebanese Army as the “pride of the nation.” “If after the army’s victory, two governments get formed, then all the sacrifices by the heroes of Lebanon would have gone to waste,” Murr warned during a news conference at the Defense Ministry in Yarze. Army units were still combing the northern refugee camp of Nahr al-Bared on Tuesday, hunting down the last remnants of Fatah al-Islam. (The Daily Star)

Israeli Cabinet likely to back ‘punishing’ Gaza civilians over Qassams. Government sources believe most Security Cabinet members will support increasing financial pressure on the Gaza Strip during the cabinet’s meeting in Jerusalem on Wednesday, in response to the ongoing rocket fire at Israel. Barak ordered the defense establishment to examine “the operational and legal aspects of steps designed to limit Hamas’ rule in the Gaza Strip.” Barak told the IDF he wanted to determine the degree to which Israel was obligated to provide services for the Strip. The call to cut off water, electricity, gas and fuel to the Strip is seen as an alternative – or, if unsuccessful, a prelude – to a broad IDF incursion into northern Gaza. Government sources, however, said Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was unlikely to authorize an escalation in Israel’s military actions in the region. (Haaretz)

In a warning to Egypt, Israel states new situation leaves no option but military action to halt weapons flow to Gaza. The warning was relayed to Cairo in the last 24 hours. DEBKAfile’s military sources disclose that the message means Israeli armed forces are standing by for an order to recapture the Philadelphi route running along the southern Gaza border with Egypt. (DEBKAfile)

India-US nuclear deal has ‘India-specific safeguards’. he proposed Indo-US nuclear agreement provides undefined “India-specific” safeguards and fails to explicitly state whether the US nuclear trade would terminate if India conducts nuclear test, a senior arms control specialist has said. “The pact promises India, assurances of nuclear fuel supply and advance consent to carry out sensitive nuclear activities that are unprecedented and inconsistent with legislation approved by Congress last year,” Daryl Kimbal of the Arms Control Agency has said. The sum of these and other US concessions could give India, that has violated past agreements on peaceful nuclear cooperation by testing a nuclear weapon, terms of nuclear trade more favourable than those for states that have assumed all the obligations and responsibilities of the nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT), which it (India) has never signed,” he said in “The Arms Control Today”. (The Indian Express)

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